Hawaiian Electric Game of the Week
Punahou tops Iolani for eighth straight title


Sat, May 4, 2019 @ Blaisdell [ 7:00 pm ]

FINAL  1   2   3   4   5      
PUN (16-4) 25 24 25 25 - 3
IOL (13-5) 16 26 19 22 - 1
Kill: J. Deuchar (PUN) 17 kills
Blk: R. Allen (PUN) 9 blk

KAKAAKO — Call it a Buffanblu block party.

Jack Deuchar had a match-high 17 kills and Punahou totaled 15 1/2 blocks to fend off top-seeded Iolani in the title match of the New City Nissan Division I Boys Volleyball State Championships before a crowd of 1,740 fans at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena Saturday night.

The Buffanblu (16-4), ranked second in the ScoringLive/Hawaiian Electric Power Rankings, reaffirmed their stronghold on the sport with their eighth consecutive state crown and 37th overall.

The top-ranked Raiders (13-5) saw their 10-match win streak halted. They were seeking their fourth state championship and first since the 2008 season.

While the end result was a familiar one, Punahou took a unfamiliar route to get there. It was unseeded in the 12-team state tournament after its string of 14 straight Interscholastic League of Honolulu championships came to an end at the hands of the Raiders two weeks ago.

"It ain't that easy," Buffanblu coach Rick Tune said of his 10th state title. "This team went through tremendous adversity. This group was forged through adversity and I hope that they remember the lessons that we talked about all season long, because regardless of winning and losing this match, I would have been proud with the way that they came out to play tonight. They would have showed me that they learned the lessons that they needed to learn."

Saturday's match marked the sixth meeting between the ILH rivals this season. After taking the first two matches against Iolani, Punahou lost the next three times — all of which came in a one-week span late last month.

Tune said the three losses to the Raiders made his team better in the end.

"I think we wanted to give this our best effort. I mean, give those Iolani guys a ton of credit; That's a really good team. That might be the best team that we've played in the finals in a very long time. They are very well coached, they know their roles and they execute it very well and we just, you know, we just did things a little bit better in every set, but that's a great team," Tune said.

Four players were responsible for all of Punahou's blocks Saturday. Robert Allen had 4 1/2 of them, Jakob Kimura four, Braxdon Simmons three and Deuchar and Claudio Clini added two each. Consequently, the Raiders were limited to a kill percentage of negative .007. They had 39 kills against 40 errors in 140 total attacks.

Tune said the fifth set of Friday's semifinal victory over No. 2 seed and Oahu Interscholastic Association champion Moanalua proved to be a turning point for his squad.

"We made a couple blocking adjustments that we've been trying to make all season quite honestly, but I think the last two nights — in the fifth set (Friday) and then all (Saturday) — the guys finally bought in and then executed at a very high level and we always knew they could," Tune said. "I mean, that's how we played against Corona Del Mar (California) when they came out for Clash of the Titans; We know we can play like that."

In the opening set, the Buffanblu used a 4-0 run to separate after a tie at 10 and then pulled away with a 6-0 run late that included four Iolani hitting errors. Punahou held a 24-21 advantage late in game 2, but the Raiders rallied with a 5-0 run to steal the set, 26-24, and even the match at one game apiece.

"I think we were playing too passive," said Deuchar, a junior outside hitter. "We were the aggressor for the first set and most of the second set and then they started to have an emotional run and we kind of got a little passive, but going into set 3 we really turned it on and be the aggressor, which we're always better when we're."

Iolani got a kill out of the back row from Kupono Browne, who then served up back-to-back aces from the service line, to take an 11-7 lead in set 3. However, Punahou stormed ahead 18-16 after a 4-0 run with reserve setter Jackson Kim serving. The teams were tied at 19 before Punahou went on a 6-0 run that culminated with a Kawai Hong kill from the left side to take game 3, 25-19.

Tune was pleased to see his team rebound from its end-game collapse in game 2.

New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Boys Volleyball All-Tournament Team
As selected by the media and the HHSAA

Kawai Hong, Punahou
Kupono Browne, Iolani
Shea Suzumoto, Punahou
Max Slaughter, Moanalua
Shane Harimoto, Iolani
Jarin Simon, Iolani
Most Outstanding Player: Jack Deuchar, Punahou

"It made us want it more. I think this team three weeks ago, it might have gotten in their heads a little bit, but we talked about, before the match we said, ‘We are ready for a five-set war; Mentally prepare to play five sets.' So even though we dropped that, I thought we were a little bit ahead of them for about 95 percent of the first two sets until probably the last five or six points, you know, I thought we just outplayed them a little bit, so that's what we talked about and just, ‘hey, hit the reset button. Here we go,' " Tune said.

The Buffanblu block was at its best in game 4, which it registered nine denials on Iolani attackers. Tune said getting the Raiders out of system with tough serving was the key.

"We knew we needed to serve well tonight, we knew we needed to be disciplined in our block tonight, we knew that we needed to bring competitive energy tonight, we knew that we needed to learn all the lessons that we were talking about over the course of the season and those guys did it. They did it. Our block was huge and it started with our serving," Tune said.

Punahou opened the fourth set by scoring four of the first five points, but Iolani eventually took an 11-10 lead after a 5-0 run. However, Punahou answered out of a timeout with a thunderous kill out of the middle from Kimura to tie it and a Deuchar kill from the left side to retake the lead. Kimura, Allen and Deuchar then teamed on a triple block in the middle before Kimura and Allen blocked another Iolani attempt on the right side to make it a 14-11 advantage.

The Buffanblu pulled away with a 4-0 run that included pair of Simmons-Clini double blocks to take a 20-15 lead, but Iolani cut it the deficit to two at 23-21 after a Punahou hitting error. Out of a timeout, setter Connor McInerny pumped a back set to Kimura, who easily cashed in on one of the many one-on-one opportunities on the right side.

"We knew they wanted to load up on our left side attack and we didn't want to let them do that without making them pay, so it was part of our game plan and just to be able to adjust to what they do, we wanted to quicken up our tempo," Tune said. "When we played those guys three times (last month), it had just come off of Clash of the Titans — we hadn't had a practice in like a week and a half — everything in our offense was just going high, high, high. We were super predictable and easy to block, so we've been working the last three weeks on just quickening up our tempo and I think it really helped us tonight."

Deuchar, who was selected as the tournament's most outstanding player, credited the right-side hitters for taking advantage of their opportunities.

"Jakob Kimura and Claudio, they did amazing. With the two big blockers on me and the left side, it really opened up the right side and our guys came through for sure. That really helped us," Deuchar said.

Hong finished with 10 kills, tallied a team-high 11 digs and also had one ace. Kimura and Clini added eight kills apiece and Allen seven. Libero Shea Suzumoto had 10 digs and McInerny posted 26 assists in the win.

The Buffanblu hit .215 for the match and won despite 16 service errors.

"We couldn't get them off the net," Iolani third-year coach Jordan Inafuku said. "They passed very well and I mean, they're very talented so if we can't get them off the net they can run a lot of different things and they have a lot of people to put the ball away. We couldn't get them off the net and they got us off the net quite a bit, that was basically the biggest difference (versus) our (other) match ups."

Browne put down a team-high 14 kills for the Raiders, but hit negative .109. Kawika Lee added 11 kills and 10 digs, Jarin Simon dug a match-high 19 balls and Shane Harimoto notched 35 assists in the loss.

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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